Communication and collaboration

Communication is the key to a great Co-Teaching Partnership. It is like throwing a ball. The purpose is to learn how well others catch information and throw it back. We develop and build relationships by practicing chit chat, e.g., what is your name, where do you live, what are your hobbies, etc. But there are levels of communication beyond chit chat.

As relationships develop and deeper communication is desired, discussing an issue becomes more like tossing a slippery egg. Be careful not to:

  • Save them for a long time and hurl them!
  • Throw them hard and fast because you cannot hold on to those slippery eggs!
  • Avoid the person so that you do not have to toss those slippery eggs.
  • Wrap those slippery eggs with so many layers of expectations and apologies that no one is sure you have tossed them.

Try to recognize when you have the slippery egg and toss it with great care and understanding, being assertive enough to communicate your issues. Always watch body language and tell the truth in a caring manner.

How do you "throw your slippery eggs"?

The following activity presents different role play scenarios for cooperating teachers and teacher candidates.

The cooperating pair, a CT and TC, should work together and take turns choosing scenarios to discuss. Both CT and TC will have two opportunities to select scenarios for role play.

Round 1: cooperating teacher

Read both (don't let your TC peek) and choose one to discuss right now...

Option A: tardiness

Your teacher candidate has been arriving late to school for the past few days. Though s/he arrives before the children do, s/he is not in the building at the time faculty are to arrive. Address this issue and solve the problem.

Option B: incorrect grammar

While instructing students, your teacher candidate sometimes makes mistakes on the board. For example, s/he wrote "I seen that yesterday" on the whiteboard as an example of the past tense of see. You've noticed that there were several grammatical mistakes in the last family newsletter s/he sent home. Address this issue and solve the problem.

Round 2: teacher candidate

Read both (don't let your CT peek) and choose one to discuss right now...

Option A: no individual space in the classroom

Your cooperating teacher has been very welcoming yet s/he has forgotten one thing - you don't have a space to call your own in the classroom. Lately you have been sitting on the back counter but you don't feel comfortable doing that long term. Address this issue and solve the problem.

Option B: lack of specific feedback

You've took the lead role and taught a lesson last week while your cooperating teacher observed you from the back of the room. You were really excited to get some feedback but all your co-teacher said was that you did "okay." Address this issue and solve the problem.

Round 3: cooperating teacher

Read both (don't let your TC peek) and choose one to discuss right now...

Option C: doing non-school related work during school day

On at least three occasions this past week you've noticed that your teacher candidate has been using the computer during class time to check on flights for a vacation during Spring break. Yesterday, you noticed s/he was updating Facebook using a cellphone. Address this issue and solve the problem.

Option D: body odor/personal hygiene

Your TC is a very hard worker and appears to stay up late to assure s/he is prepared to teach. However, you've noticed that s/he has significant body odor that is distracting students and you from their work. Address this issue and solve the problem.

Round 4: teacher candidate

Read both (don't let your CT peek) and choose one to discuss right now...

Option C: inappropriate use of co-planning time

Your CT seems to enjoy your company, so much so that when you meet for that "sacred hour" each week to co-plan, the time is spent talking about life outside of school. Now that you are the instructional lead, you really need to be able to identify ways that your CT will co-teach with you the following week. Address this issue and solve the problem.)

Option D: ct is stepping in to help you too much and too soon

Your CT is very kind and helpful. However, you are working to develop your classroom management/leadership skills and that requires that your CT allow you to work through problems that arise during the school day. Your CT keeps removing students from the classroom before you've had a chance to address the issue yourself.

The students don't respect your classroom leadership yet, in part, because your CT steps in too early and too often. Address this issue and solve the problem.

Collaboration Self-Assessment Tool (CSAT)

It is often assumed that people know how to collaborate. However, collaboration skills are rarely identified, let alone taught. When collaborative efforts become strained or are successful, it is important to evaluate our own role in the process. There is a difference between cooperation and collaboration. Collaboration is a philosophy of interactions with the focus on the process of working together; cooperation stresses the product of such work (Myers, 1991).

Below is a self-assessment worksheet.  It will help you reflect on and evaluate your own collaboration skills. The beauty of this self-assessment tool is that we can identify the areas in which we can improve in an effort to become better collaborators. (You do not have to share your scores with your partner.)

Please take some time to complete Collaboration Self-Assessment worksheet (MS Excel). Make sure you save the file to your desktop before entering your responses.

When finished, consider the following:

  • What have you learned about yourself by completing this rubric?
  • When collaboration is ineffective, the following issues are often voiced to justify the situation:
    1. Personal style
    2. Size of the group
    3. Designated role in the group (facilitator, recorder, etc.)
    4. Group history

We challenge you to ask yourself: What is at the heart of these issues? Could citing these variables possibly be a smoke screen to hide the fact that you are not using skills needed for successful collaboration?

Working across generations

Often, Cooperating Teachers and Teacher Candidates are from different generations, and these generational differences can help explain both varying world views and attitudes toward the workplace. More information in Working Across Generations (PDF)

Tips on how to work together across generations:

  • Be aware of differences
  • Appreciate the strengths
  • Manage the differences

Next: Co-Teaching Planning

© 2012, St. Cloud State University. Used with permission by the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities’ Office of Teacher Education (OTE) for the CEHD Partner Network